Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recently I’ve been forced to read Fox News.
I’m tracking it for another newsletter I write (you can sign up for that newsletter – The Wonky News – HERE).
But I should have been doing this all along, frankly. It’s the … ahem … “resource” used by half the American population. But as you no doubt know for yourself – it’s tough to stomach.
My “research” on Fox has been equal parts enlightening and unsettling.
There are quite a few belly laughs, frankly. At one point, the front page juxtaposed impeachment proceedings with stories about Bikini Baristas and how “liberals” think classic Disney movies are “triggering.” That alone should prove to anyone who was paying attention that Fox is entertainment, not news.
But that’s the issue, isn’t it?
People come for the “news.” They stay for the entertainment.
And, tragically, their chief entertainment is hate.
We all know that liberal bashing is a favorite pastime of lots of folks on the fervently so-called religious right. “Liberal tears” coffee mugs have been spotted with terrifying regularity in the hands of legislators on the floor of the Missouri state legislature. “Owning the libs” is a justifiable rationale for supporting otherwise terrible ideas that would throw cash into the hands of multi-millionaires while robbing the rest of us blind.
What emerges from the Fox News echo chamber is hatred fueled by fear set afire online – where people can hide behind a computer screen and not see the real time impact of their words.
I saw it all firsthand recently in some ads that I put together for It Starts Today, an organization that I’ve worked with for years.
“If you’re tired of the GOP’s shenanigans, you’re not alone,” I say into the camera. “Join the people who are doing something about it. Join It Starts Today.”
Simple enough. Honest enough. Partisan? Of course. But not bashing. Not mean. Not cruel.
“Proves you don’t get much with a college degree,” came one comment.
“We’re not…” I started to type what would have been a snippy quick-witted response before I stopped myself. Delete-delete-delete-delete… and I sat on my hands and sat back to observe.
“Dumbocrat,” said another. A woman named Christine who’s a proclaimed follower of Jesus gave that one a thumb’s up.
“What is this filth showing up on my feed? Evil, evil stuff.” said another.
One after the other, feeding on the last person’s comments, one-upping each other – showing solidarity in their anger through the click of a laughing emoji.
“Someone get that lady a rope.”
I wasn’t laughing.
I was watching. Watching what are probably relatively nice people who make cookies for the bake sale and call their moms on Sunday nights devolve into a mosh pit of hate. And they were loving every minute of it. (And yes, I think some of them might be bots. But who can say?)
I hid the comments, eventually. Changed our targeting (note to self: “engages with liberal content” is a dangerous audience).
And I sat back to reflect.
We are so divided right now that the mere mention of me being a Democrat causes reflexive hostility.
That is terrifying.
But what can we do about it?
As much as some folks love the turn of phrase, “Love Trumps Hate” is a tough slogan to live by. Turn the other cheek. Show compassion. Be empathetic. That’s what we tell ourselves to do.
They’re only lashing out because they’re hurting, we say.
They’re only lashing out because they’ve been indoctrinated, we remind ourselves.
They’re only lashing out because the policies of the party they’re supporting have backed them into a corner and they have no way out. We (think we) know that to be true.
We know we’re supposed to meet darkness with light. To go high when they go so very low. But it’s a lot easier to just turn around and yell back. To respond to their terrible comments on Facebook. To try to hurt them as much as they’re trying to hurt us.
I surfed over to Fox News, where I saw so-called news stories normalizing hatred and glorifying ridicule.
And I surfed over to Twitter, where I saw the president belittling patriots and praising war criminals.
And I thought back to my own reflexive instinct to reply to hateful comments with snide comments of my own.
Friends, I don’t like saying it, but we are in a dark place.
And you and I the front lines of compassion, of equity, of equality, of consideration.
I know it’s tough to toe this line. It’s hard not to jump into the mosh pit and fight back with all the quick-witted comebacks you can muster. It’s hard not to harden.
But the way I see it, kindness itself is on the chopping block right now.
And if you and I don’t preserve kindness … who will?
Thank you for everything you’re doing and have done.
And thank you, most of all, for being kind.
I know it’s hard.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of November 19, 2019
Tuesday: Say Thanks to Some Extra-Special Patriots
Last week we saw some profiles in courage. Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Yovanovitch, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent gracefully – and forcefully – testified in the impeachment hearings.
We’re so used to sending postcards encouraging leaders to do the right thing.
It’s nice to have a chance to send a postcard thanking leaders for already doing it.
We also know that these folks have been, and will continue to be, targeted by GOP hate-mongers. Postcards for America has a great idea to send them messages of thanks and encouragement.
Just three postcards, one to each, to say thank you.
Learn more and get their (business) addresses HERE.
Wednesday: Don’t forget Open Enrollment going on Now!
ACA Open Enrollment is going on from November 1 to December 15. If you’re not hearing a lot about it, it’s because it’s not being advertised by the administration. As you know, there’s been a concerted effort since Trump took office to decrease enrollment – and with such a short window to sign up, our efforts are even more important.
Please SHARE with your networks on social media, and ask them to share with their networks too. Go to https://www.getamericacovered.org/take-action for great social media assets to share, printable posters and flyers, and message guidance.
Consider printing one of their flyers to put at the local coffee shop, to put up in your own store, or to put up on the bulletin board at the grocery store. There are lots of organic ways to get the message out there, so let’s do what we can to spread the word!
Thursday: Suit Up Maine’s Susan Collins Resource!
Serious hat tip to Suit Up Maine, folks. They’ve put together a really fantastic resource about our favorite wishy-washy Senator from Maine – Susan Collins (who’s always claiming to be “disappointed,” “concerned,” and “troubled” by Trump – but still votes in lockstep with the GOP). Check it out here: https://www.suitupmaine.org/case-against-collins
This is a great resource for a few reasons. First, because Susan Collins is up for re-election in 2020. We all need to be working on flipping the Senate, and Collins is one of those Senators who is in the hot seat. Suit Up Maine has been on the front lines, so to speak, so it’s great to be able to use their resource to craft any messages about unseating Collins.
Second, because if you’ve got a Senator (or any other politician, frankly) that needs to be unseated, this is a great example of how to create an explainer about their record. It’s time consuming to create and it’s obviously a labor of love. But it’s also really easy to use – even if you’re not a local. So check it out just to see what you can do if you’ve got a legislator that’s gotta go!!
Friday: Check Out the New BluePrints for Change Organizing Manual
Maybe you’re relatively new to an activist group, or have just started organizing. Maybe you’re wanting to learn more about what other folks in the space are doing. If that’s the case, you should check out the Blueprints for Change organizing manual!
Guys, I’m super impressed with the amount and quality of information in this guide. It’s organized and well-written, with a very helpful Table of Contents that includes everything from how to set up a Texting Campaign to Digital Security Basics to Door Knocking best practices. Check it out for yourself and share with your groups!
Share only with progressive friends/activists, please: https://blueprintsfc.org/manual/
WHEW! GO, TEAM! SUPER PROUD OF YOU!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.